Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Family Retreat in Paradise

As our kids begin to hit puberty, all five at once, our house has gotten a little crazy.  Add a hormonal, pregnant momma to the mix and you have a madhouse---literally!

After a couple weeks of pure chaos in our house and in our mission life, we decided it was time to have some quiet family time and figure out what God was calling us to do.  We were certain that he didn't want us to keep going like we were.  And there was no way that we could continue to be "Christ" to those we were sent to serve when we couldn't even be "Christ" to the ones in our own house.  So, we loaded up kids and headed to a nearby island where some of our fellow missionaries live to have a family retreat.

We were a little nervous about heading to Camiguin island.  We had heard many stories about how beautiful it was, but how "primitive" it was.  The girl's house was literally an open porch except for the bedrooms.  We had heard the stories of the lizards that live in the house and "rip your skin off" if you try to knock them off of you.  We had heard numerous stories of the ferocious bugs.  We knew we would be "roughing it", but we knew we needed (1) some family time and (2) some community time with other like-minded American missionaries.

We left our house at 7 am and drove three hours to another town to meet up with one of our missionary friends, had an American lunch of pizza at the mall, then drove another two hours to the ferry, then took a 45-minute ferry ride to the other island, and then another hour drive to the town where we would be staying.  By the time we arrived, it was dark, but even in the dark I could see the island's beauty and couldn't wait until the next day to go exploring with Father Joe and the other missionaries.  Here are some pics of our adventures on Camguin.

The family with Father Joe in front of the volcanoes.
He literally drove us to the end of the road. 

Our fearless leader napping at the beach while the kids swam.

Some of us at the Old Church Ruins

Heading to the Sunken Cemetery 

I know! This looks more like a vacation than a retreat, but in between sight seeing and relaxing on the beach, we did have a family retreat.  And God spoke so much TRUTH and WISDOM into our family.  He called us out on each and every one of our unChristian like behaviors through scriptures that He hand picked for each of us to share.  And reminded us of our task here in the Philippines.

Family Retreat on the girl's porch/dining room/living room.

At our very first session, He called us out on the ugliness that had been coming out of our mouths the past few weeks when talking to each other and our tempers which had become very short fused lately.  One of the first scriptures shared was Proverbs 14-15.  We were immediately called out on our quick tempers and called to be slow to anger and to answer each other with soft tongues.  Whoa!  Yes, God is all-knowing and sees and hears everything.  And when He brings something to your attention, it makes much more of an impact than when coming from a nagging parent or spouse!

He continued throughout our other sessions to remind us to put away anger and hurtful speech and to be kind and patient with one another at all times (Colossians 3: 1-17).  And that we will have to give an account for every careless word uttered (Matthew 12: 36-37).  And again in James 1:19-27 to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.  And it continued for three days with verses like these reminding us of the sin of speech.  He also sent reminders about each one of our roles in our family (Colossians 3:18-21  and Ephesians 6:1-4).

But being the loving Father that He is, He also confirmed and acknowledged the good that we are doing by reminding us that He is in our midst and is rejoicing over us and will one day bring us home and restore our lives for the sacrifices we have made (Zephaniah 3: 14-20).  He confirmed that He will reward us for all of our trials, sufferings, and struggles in this life with the reward of eternity with Him in Heaven (Hebrew 2:14-15). And that the testing of faith produces perseverance and that we should consider trials a "joy" (James 1: 2-3).  And He is enriching us for our obedience and generosity in glorifying Him by proclaiming the Gospel (2 Corinthians 9: 6-15).

And just to be sure that we knew that He was NOT calling us out of missions He sent us reminders about our duty to the poor.  First in Sirach 4 then in Galatians 2:10 and then followed by numerous Psalms about the poor.  He reminded us that Matthew did not question his call, he simply followed Christ obediently (Matthew 9:9).  Then He reminded us of our call to pick up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24-25).  He told us to be eager to preach the gospel like Paul in Romans 1:14-17.  And to remember everything we have learned and to keep doing what we have learned--- teaching, reproving, and correcting (2 Timothy 3:14-17).  And then reminded us to be mindful of the success of the Apostles (Jude 1: 17-18).

Lastly, He told us to simply TRUST HIM (Psalm 4: 6, Proverbs 3:5-6)

We challenge you to have a family retreat of your own---when things begin to get out of control, BEFORE things get out of control, when you feel your family is in a spiritual "rut", when you have a major decision to make, when you need answers, or when you just need to know that God is real and knows your family's struggles.

Here's the How-to:

  • Pick three days in a row where all of your family will be home and can meet three times a day for an hour each time.
  • At the beginning of each meeting, begin with a song and prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to guide each member of your family during their personal prayer time.
  • Then each individual goes off and prays and reads scripture for one hour jotting down specific verses that stood out to them or overall messages they received from reading.  Even small children can do this. If they can't read, give them a picture bible to point out bible stories from.  You will be amazed at how it fits in when it's all said and done.
  • After the hour, gather back.  Pray again for everyone's ears, hearts, and minds to be open.
  • Then each person shares about what they read and one person writes it all down.
  • Repeat this three times a day for three days. 
  • At the end of the third session on the third day, read everything that we said aloud to the group.  Let everyone reflect on the theme, what they think God was trying to say to your family or to them individually.  
  • We like to have "family time" in between sessions (movies, games, outings together as a family without extras).  We also try to go to confession and Mass together at some point during the three days.